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Industry approves up to $140B transition away from coal

Callide coal power station
Callide coal power station

A group of major mineral producers have supported replacing fossil fuels with zero-emissions alternatives.

Industry bodies representing the nation’s largest resources companies recently endorsed the federal opposition’s plan to replace coal-fired power plants with nuclear technology.

The proposal involves nationalising then converting closing power stations to accept 470 megawatt or larger capacity modular reactor at the following locations:

  • Callide, 115km southwest of Gladstone
  • Tarong, 200km west of the Sunshine Coast
  • Liddell, 110km northwest of Newcastle
  • Mount Piper, 161km northwest of Sydney
  • Loy Yang, 167km east of Melbourne
  • Northern, 310km north of Adelaide
  • Muja, 208km south of Perth.

Existing power lines will be used instead of constructing 28,000km of new poles and wires. Cooling water capacity will also be required. Locals will be employed at the new site for the next century.

“That is a great transition for those towns and the jobs that are created there can underpin economic and jobs growth for literally eight to 10 decades, up to 100 years,” Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said according to News Limited.

“We are wanting to adopt a proven technology, we are not talking about building from scratch or having an Australian bespoke made nuclear power station. We can look to the example of those other countries and there are over 400 reactors operating around the world now.”

Each project is widely speculated to cost about $20 billion, bringing a grand total of $140B according to the Australian Conservation Foundation. This amount is touted to be a fraction of federal Labor’s estimate of between $1.2 trillion and $1.5T. Two hectares (ha) are required for each nuclear reactor compared to 4000 ha for a comparable solar farm.

“Nuclear energy stands out as a reliable, zero-emissions, 24/7 baseload energy source that can deliver long-term stability and support for Australia’s miners, manufacturers and communities,” Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable said in a public statement.

“It is time to move beyond outdated anti-nuclear sentiments … [and] nuclear plants have a lifespan of 60 to 100 years, far exceeding some current assumptions of just 30 years.”

Constable urged the Federal Government to lift its nuclear energy ban, so the nation can finally achieve net-zero emissions. Up to 7M metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions could be removed with a 1.1 gigawatt AP-1000 reactor. This is equivalent to taking 1.5M cars off the road.

“Lifting the ban on nuclear energy will empower businesses and energy users to reduce emissions without compromising competitiveness,” she said.

“The Australian Government needs to take the nuclear option seriously, as the rest of the world is, and lift the ban so Australian families and businesses can enjoy cheap, clean, reliable electricity for decades to come.”

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia supported considering “all options” including nuclear technology.

“CME supports the diversification of WA’s resource commodities and energy mix, and our proven standards of environmental social governance responsibility and cutting-edge mining technology open up possibilities for processing a greater range of materials to support the decarbonisation of our trading partners,” CEO Rebecca Tomkinson said.

Dutton plans to establish two small modular reactors as early as the year 2035. A large design proposal could take a further two years according to the Special Broadcasting Service.

However, the Mining and Energy Union (MEU) is concerned this timeframe will be too late for workers affected by looming coal power station closures in Eraring (2027), Collie (2027), Callide B (2028), Yallourn (2028), Muja (2029), Bayswater (2033), Vales Point (2033) and Loy Yang A (2035).

“Even if nuclear energy was a popular option, according to the CSIRO, the earliest a large-scale nuclear plant could commence operations is no sooner than 2040. The clock is ticking; we need to be focusing our efforts on delivering an orderly transition for the thousands of workers and their communities who are staring down the barrel of the energy transition now,” MEU general secretary Grahame Kelly said.

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